Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Bridge of Death

October 6
I have reached the four thousand mile mark, a number so large it makes my brain hurt, although honestly about anything beyond double digits does that.  You can’t undertake such a long journey without passing over hundreds of rivers, creeks, arroyos, unless you walk in a circle in Nevada.  At none of these crossings did I feel the overwhelming fear I experienced today. 
The trek started with a bridge, spanning the gap between Brannan and Sherman Islands.  There were no trolls and he old man from scene 24 did not await me with his questions three.  The danger still lurked on the horizon.  I strolled onto Sherman Island with ease.
I could, however, see the devil by now, and I don’t mean Mt. Diablo, which dominated the background.  In front and center the Antioch Bridge stood, perhaps the last major impediment on my way to the sea.  The ADT does not approach it directly, instead taking a scenic tour around the Island.  I was glad to oblige, putting off our inevitable confrontation as long as possible.  Like an underdog boxer, I bobbed and weaved, scared to come too close for fear of the knockout blow.
Cows and sheep grazed around me, oblivious to human struggles, even those that could decide their fate.  Water surrounded us, a seemingly endless resource, but a sign at Eddo’s RV Park and Resort spoke of conflict over its use:

California is one state, but split into two well-defined regions: the North and the South.  Their civil war is over the content of the very rivers and sloughs by which the livestock and I were encircled.  Southern California is a desert and as such is constantly in search of the life-giving liquid.   Northern California is the economic center of the state and well-provisioned with rivers running out of the Sierra Nevadas.  Governor Brown has stirred up the controversy with a proposal to build two water tunnels through the delta.  The South claims their future is uncertain without the tunnels.  Northerners argue that the entire delta ecosystem could be disrupted if the water is diverted. 
I’d heard some of the Northern Californians seriously suggest seceding from the South.  They feel the desert regions over-consume and under-produce and have become a drain on the much more successful and efficient North.  These thoughts diverted my attention from the Antioch Bridge momentarily, but soon I stared doom in the face.  I procrastinated, stopping to eat a can of Vienna sausages.  When the last meatsicle went disappeared down my gullet, our meeting could be delayed no longer.  The Bridge is almost two miles long, but the distance was not my main worry.  There were two serious concerns, the first was immediate.  There is no pedestrian walkway – you are on the same level as the vehicles, which fly by at up to seventy miles an hour.  A few feet of shoulder presents the only zone of safety.
Once I had begun I marched in a robotic fashion, not wanting to pause for even a second. Trucks and cars roared by in packs, there were few breaks in the traffic.  As I rose higher I crouched lower, terrified a freak gust of wind would blow me off the side and down hundreds of feet to the San Joaquin below.  The climb felt endless, but eventually I came to the bridge’s summit, the end now visible, but not yet near. 
There was yet one more obstacle.  I was on the left, preferring to face the onrushing machines rather than having them at my back.  The turnoff at the finish line was on the other side of the road.  A small gap, opened up, giving me my opportunity.  I hurdled over a concrete barrier and as I semi bore down on me, scooted onto the opposite shoulder.  Only a few hundred yards left.  I winced at the “whoosh” of every auto zooming by me, counting down every single step until….
Safety is green grass growing above a curb.  I entered Antioch a victorious crusader, selecting a dingy cafĂ© for a celebratory meal.  If you had seen the smile on my face you would think I’d been invited to dine with the King of England. 
My accommodations for the evening were equally unimpressive.  The Executive Inn has probably not entertained any corporate bigwigs in quite some time, unless high ranking members of the Crips or Bloods count.  The non-smoking room smelled like a Tom Petty concert and even the knobs of the dressers and the phone book had been stolen.  I could not have cared less.  The bridge of death was behind me. 
17 miles/4010 total miles

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